At one time the AFC West was considered one of the strongest divisions in all of football. Home field advantage in this division takes on a different meaning because no one wants to play in the “Sea of Red,” or “The Black Hole,” let alone play one mile above sea level. However, three weeks into the season, the AFC West has already seen the unexpected: The undefeated Broncos are the only team with a winning record while the Chargers (many people’s pick to make the Super Bowl) are just 1-2. It looks like the head coach for the Raiders, Lane Kiffin, will be leaving Oakland before the season is over despite having all the talent in the world on his team. Don’t count the Chiefs out of this divisional downward spiral. They should be holding tryouts – American Gladiators style - to find their fourth QB of the season. Here’s a breakdown of each AFC team:
Denver Broncos (3-0):
Looking Back: Broncos fans have knots in their stomachs every Sunday. They wonder if Lady Luck is on their side or if a field-goal attempt will want to make them up-chuck a Chiefs fan. Against the New Orleans Saints in week 3, it was Martin Gramatica’s shanked field goal that helped keep lunch inside the bellies of Broncos fans. The Broncos’ offense is still on a role as they average 38 points per contest. Jay Cutler (21-34, 264 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and Brandon Marshall (6 receptions, 155 yds, 1 TD) continued to perform well in week 3. However, it’s their defense that allows big-time offenses to get back into games. Case in point: The Saints came back from 21-3 in the first quarter and got within two points of tying the Broncos by the end of the game. They didn’t pressure Drew Brees as he threw for 421 yards and 1 TD. If the Broncos don’t learn from their defensive mistakes, a team that they should easily beat has the chance to beat them.
Looking Forward: It’s always good to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead, and a week 4 win is nearly in the bag already considering the Chiefs are struggling tremendously. After facing a big athletic QB in JaMarcus Russell, then battling Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, the Broncos get a bit of a break this week. Going against an inexperienced QB in Tyler Thigpen can help the Broncos fine tune their pass defense. Larry Johnson is a talented back which is nice because the Broncos won’t be able to ignore the run. This game will be like a preseason game for the team, allowing them to work on areas that need improvement; Something that is very important to a team that looks to make a strong playoff run.
Kansas City Chiefs (0-3):
Looking Back: You would think that time heals all wounds. That would be true if you weren’t a Chiefs fan. In the first week of the season, they almost beat the Patriots even with Tom Brady playing part of the game. Week 2 saw the Chiefs lose to the Raiders 23-8. This was a team that they could’ve beat except the Chiefs’ young defense let Raiders back Darren McFadden have the first big game of his NFL career. Then the Chiefs took a big hit to the Herm Edwards’ steered ship as they lost to the rebuilt Falcons 38-14. The only highlight for the team was Larry Johnson’s game as he rushed 24 times for 121 yards and 1 TD. They gave third string QB Tyler Thigpen his first NFL start because Brodie Croyle injured his shoulder. The Pigpen Thigpen result: 14-36 passing, 128 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT. Hmmm…I bet the Chiefs still wish they had Jared Allen on the team. They’re so desperate that they would probably give him a chance at QB.
Looking Forward: The Chiefs face the toughest team since they played the Patriots in week 1. The Chiefs will need to find a way for their young defense to stop the Broncos’ high-powered offense. If you haven’t seen the Running of the Bulls that takes place in Pamplona, Spain every summer, then watch the massacre that will take place at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon. It will be the running of the Broncos: Chiefs fans, dressed in red just like the runners in Spain, will be running for safety - Away from Herm Edwards, Tyler Thigpen, and a Broncos team that is on fire right now. Lucky for Chiefs fans the Broncos come to town once a year and it’s not a 9 day festival like it is in Spain.
Oakland Raiders (1-2):
Looking Back: Al Davis and the Raiders are known for their gunslinging off-season moves. They picked up Darren McFadden in the draft, added Javon Walker to the roster, and finally get their first full season with JaMarcus Russell. They’re off to a solid start despite being a game below .500. They did lose to the Broncos in week 1 (41-14), but they beat the Chiefs in week 2 (23-8). That game was like the two nerds in high school fist fighting over a calculator. Meaningful to the parties involved, but definitely not the highlight of the school day or a Sunday in the NFL. Week 3 had the Raiders in a prime position to beat the very competitive Bills. They were up by 9 points in the fourth quarter, but lost it by one point on a Bills’ field-goal. JaMarcus Russell has an 87.5 QB rating with 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 3 fumbles through three games. The team could easily be 2-1 right now.
Looking Forward: It’s a battle in the “Golden State” as the Chargers visit Raider Nation in Oakland. Coming off their first win against the Jets gives them confidence and will most likely put them on the track that they should’ve been on all along. The Raiders defense will have a difficult time stopping the Chargers’ stacked offensive unit, and unless Russell and McFadden have the best game of their lives, the Raiders don’t stand a chance. Lane Kiffin’s job will be in question once again, and Al Davis could be forced to take action. Did anyone tell Al Davis that the best things in life are free? Or at least cheaper than what he is paying Javon Walker and Co. to win some games in Oakland.
San Diego Chargers (1-2):
Looking Back: The first two weeks of the season played out like a drama-filled sad movie. In week 1, the Panthers threaded the needle into the endzone without any time remaining on the game clock to get the win in sunny gloomy San Diego. Then, the Chargers had a call go the other way as Ed Hochuli blew the ball dead when Jay Cutler fumbled late in the game. The result: Denver got the ball back, scored a TD on the next play, and went for the two-point conversion in which they ran the same play previously mentioned to beat the Chargers by one point. Three points! That’s all it took for the Chargers to start the season 0-2. Week 3 was played on the biggest stage of all: Monday Night Football. The Jets may have scored faster than John Madden can say, “I love Brett Favre,” but it was the Chargers who took over early and won 29-48. Their offense can put up big numbers, but like the Broncos, they cannot stop anyone on defense. They blew out the Jets last night, but even they scored 29 points.
Looking Forward: Now that the Chargers have a solid wall to push off of, they will continue to redeem themselves after their first two heartbreaking losses. Three things that the Chargers will be thinking about for the rest of the season: 1.) The status of LT on a game-to-game basis; 2.) Whether or not Ed Hochuli is working their game; and 3.) How to get past the Conference Finals and make it to Tampa in February. Oakland should be a game where they can take care of business by getting the win, but also be able to tweak, er, overhaul their defense for future games. Some will argue that the Chargers are still the team to beat in the AFC West despite their record at this point. It’s believed that the teams (Bills, Broncos, and Titans) currently atop the AFC standings are not going to perform like this all season, and the Chargers have the talent to creep in and take over the lead in a matter of 3-4 weeks. Until that happens, “I’m Ron Burgundy and you stay classy, San Diego!”
Tags: Afc West Al Davis Atlanta Falcons Brandon Marshall Brett Favre Brodie Croyle. Jared Allen Buffalo Bills Carolin Panthers Darren Mcfadden Denver Broncos Drew Brees Ed Hochuli Herm Edwards Jamarcus Russell Javon Walker Jay Cutler John Madden Kansas City Chiefs Ladanian Tomlinson Lane Kiffin Larry Johnson Martin Gramatica New England Patriots New Orleans Saints New York Jets Oakland Raiders Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers Tennesse Titans Tom Brady Tyler Thigpen